Martin Hanzal

Why rebuilding teams should trade for players like Marleau

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The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, and others have discussed an intriguing possibility that the Los Angeles Kings might trade for Patrick Marleau from the cap-strapped Toronto Maple Leafs.

On its face, that seems like an ill-advised trade. Why would the already-old-as-dirt, expensive Kings seek out a near-40-year-old who carries a bloated $6.25 million cap hit?

Yet, in the cap era, it’s a deal that could make a ton of sense for both sides, if the right deal could be hashed out.

The Kings should go even bolder

While LeBrun discusses the Kings wanting to get rid of a different, cheaper problem contract to make the Marleau trade work (sub required), the real goal should be for both teams to acknowledge their situations. The Maple Leafs needs cap space; the Kings need to build up their farm system with picks and prospects.

Instead of trying to move, say, Dustin Brown or Ilya Kovalchuk, the Kings should instead find as creative ways as possible to bulk up on futures, while accepting the (admittedly grim) reality that they’ll suffer through 2019-20, if not 2020-21 and beyond.

In fact, if I were Kings GM Rob Blake, I’d pitch sending over Alec Martinez for Marleau, with the goal of really making it costly for the Maple Leafs. Imagine how appealing it would be for the Maple Leafs to move out Marleau’s contract and improve their defense, and imagine how much more of a ransom the Kings could demand if they’re absorbing all the immediate “losses” in such a trade? Could Los Angeles land yet another Maple Leafs first-rounder, say in 2020 or even 2021? Could such a deal be sweetened with, say, the rights to Andreas Johansson?

That trade might not work, but it’s a blueprint

The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott believes that a deal probably won’t actually work out, and that’s understandable. There are a lot of ins and outs to a would-be trade that could send Marleau to L.A., particularly since Marleau would need to waive his no-trade clause to complete a trade.

But, really, this is just one example.

Rebuilding teams should apply similar logic to any number of other situations, while contenders can be forgiven for thinking more short-term.

Of course, a rebuilding team would also need to embrace the rebuilding reality, and not every team is past the denial stage.

Potential rebuilding teams

The Kings are in a decent position to absorb a tough year or two, what with being not that far removed from two Stanley Cup wins. The Ottawa Senators have already prepared fans for a rebuild, although they also need to avoid making things too brutal after an agonizing year. The Detroit Red Wings could be less resistant to rebuilding under Steve Yzerman than Ken Holland. Other teams should probably at least consider a short pulling off of the Band-Aid, too, with the Anaheim Ducks coming to mind.

What are some of the problem contracts that could be moved? Glad you (may have) asked.

Also, quick note: these mentions are based on my perception of the relative value of players, not necessarily how their teams view them.

Marleau-likes (challenging contracts ending after 2019-20)

  • Again, Marleau is about to turn 40, and his cap hit is $6.25M. His actual salary is just $4.25M, with Cap Friendly listing his salary bonus at $3M. Maybe the Maple Leafs could make his contract even more enticing to move if they eat the salary bonus, then trade him? If it’s not the Kings, someone should try hard to get Marleau, assuming he’d waive for at least a few situations.
  • Ryan Callahan: 34, $5.8M cap hit, $4.7M salary. Callahan to the Red Wings almost feels too obvious, as Yzerman can do his old team the Lightning a cap-related favor, get one of his beloved former Rangers, and land some much-needed pieces. Naturally, other rebuilders should seek this deal out, too, as the Bolts are in just as tough a spot with Brayden Point as the Maple Leafs are in trying to sign Mitch Marner.
  • Nathan Horton: 35, $5.3M cap hit, $3.6M salary. The Maple Leafs have been placing Horton on LTIR since acquiring his contract, but with his reduced actual salary, maybe a team would take that minor headache off of Toronto’s hands?
  • David Clarkson: 36, $5.25M cap hit, $3.25M salary. Basically Vegas’ version of the Horton situation.
  • Zach Bogosian: 29, $5.14M cap hit, $6M salary. Buffalo’s said the right things about liking Bogosian over the years, but with big spending coming up if they want to re-sign Jeff Skinner, not to mention get better … wouldn’t they be better served spending that money on someone who might move the needle?
  • Andrew MacDonald: 33, $5M cap hit, $5.75M salary. Like Bogosian, MacDonald’s salary actually exceeds his cap hit. Maybe you’d get a better return from Philly if you ate one year of his deal? Both the Flyers and Sabres have some added urgency to be better in 2019-20, after all.
  • Martin Hanzal: 33, $4.75M cap hit, $4M salary. The Stars already have a ton of cap space opening up while they made big strides during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You’d think they’d be eager to get more room, earlier, and maybe make a run at someone bold like Artemi Panarin or Erik Karlsson? They were one of the top bidders for Karlsson last summer, apparently, but now they could conceivably add Karlsson without trading away a gem like Miro Heiskanen.
  • Dmitry Kulikov: 29, $4.33M cap hit and salary. Maybe the Jets could more easily keep Jacob Trouba along with Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor if they get rid of an underwhelming, expensive defenseman? Just a thought.

If you want to dig even deeper, Cap Friendly’s list is a great guide.

Two years left

Seeking contracts that expire after 2020-21 is a tougher sell, but maybe the rewards would be worth the risk of extended suffering?

  • Corey Perry: 36, $8.625M cap hit. $8M salary in 2019-20; $7M salary ($4M base; $3M salary bonus) in 2020-21. If you’re offering to take on Perry’s contract, you’d probably want a significant package in return. If the Ducks are in rebuild denial, then they’d get a fresher start if they managed to bribe someone to take Perry. Ryan Getzlaf‘s deal also expires after 2020-21 with similar parameters, though it’s less appealing to move him.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk: 32, $6.65 cap hit, cheaper salary in 2020-21. Marc Staal, 34, $5.7M cap hit, cheaper salary in 2020-21. The Rangers’ future is blurry now, as they could go from rebuild to trying to contender if they get Panarin. If they’re really gearing toward contending, maybe they’d want to get rid of some expensive, aging defensemen?
  • David Backes: 35, $6M cap hit, $4M salary each of the next two seasons. The bottom line is that Backes has been a pretty frequent healthy scratch, and the Bruins should funnel his cap hit toward trying to keep both Charlie McAvoy (RFA this offseason) and Torey Krug (UFA after 2020-21).
  • Alexander Steen: 37, $5.75M cap hit, cheaper in 2020-21. Paying this much for a guy who’s become a fourth-liner just isn’t tenable for a contender. He’s been great for the Blues over the years, yet if you want to stay in the mix, you sometimes need to have those tough conversations.
  • Lightning round: Brandon Dubinsky, Matt Niskanen, Artem Anisimov, and Jake Allen, among others. There are a lot of other, less-obvious “let’s take this off your hands” considerations. Check out Cap Friendly’s list if you want to dive down that rabbit hole.

***

As you can see, plenty of contenders have contracts they should try to get rid of, and rebuilding teams should capitalize on these situations.

Interestingly, there are fascinating ideas if rebuilders would take on even more than a year or two of baggage. Would it be worth it to ask for a lot for, say, James Neal, particularly if they think Neal might be at least a little better than his disastrous 2018-19 season indicated? Might someone extract a robust package while accepting Milan Lucic‘s positively odious contract?

It’s easier to sell the one or two-year commitments, which is why this post focuses on those more feasible scenarios. Nonetheless, it would be fun for the armchair GMs among us to see executives get truly creative.

Should your team seek these trades out? What level of risk is too much to stomach? Do tell in the comments.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Coyotes’ Hanzal puts ‘shooting pain’ in leg behind him

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If the Arizona Coyotes are going to be successful in 2015-16, it will come down to grinding away wins like they managed to do years ago.

Towering center Martin Hanzal has been a big part of those more successful runs, yet his unyielding style has taken its toll on his body.

Really, his description of the left leg issues that plagued him last season was pretty disturbing, even if his overall message to Fox Sports Arizona was positive.

“I had pain that was shooting down my left leg and there were days where I couldn’t feel my leg,” Hanzal said. “They kind of cut the piece out that was pushing on my nerve and that was the reason I couldn’t feel my leg. Now it’s all good; all healed up.”

Hmm.

The 28-year-old acknowledged his frustration regarding all the time he’s missed over his career. Just look at his games played totals over the years, handing a partial mulligan to the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign:

2009-10 (made the playoffs): 81 games played
2010-11 (made): 61 GP
2011-12 (made): 64 GP
2012-13 (missed): 39 GP*
2013-14 (missed): 65 GP
2014-15 (missed): 37 GP

That’s a lot of missed games, and it’s not as if players who historically deal with injury issues consistently become more durable with age.

Head coach Dave Tippett admits those issues are “a concern,” and health problems only seem more frustrating when you consider his praise of Hanzal:

“When you look at the teams in our conference, he can play head-to-head with those big centers and he touches a lot of different situations for us,” Tippett said. “In a hard game, he’s one of those guys that helps you win.”

Of course, he can’t help the Coyotes if he’s unable to suit up, which is an all-too-frequent issue for the powerhouse pivot.

Hanzal to have back surgery, likely out for season

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Martin Hanzal is unlikely to play again this season. The Coyotes announced today that he’ll have back surgery, rendering his chances of returning before next season “remote.”

Hanzal has eight goals and 16 assists in 37 games. A big forward who plays with an edge, it was thought the 27-year-old might be a coveted player leading up to the March 2 trade deadline.

Obviously, this news changes things.

Per Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic, Coyotes GM Don Maloney expects Hanzal to make a full recovery.

Hanzal is signed through 2016-17 for a cap hit of $3.1 million.

Related: Even Ekman-Larsson could be ‘up for grabs’ as Coyotes take ‘a step back’

Even Ekman-Larsson could be ‘up for grabs’ as Coyotes take ‘a step back’

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We already know the Arizona Coyotes are willing to trade Antoine Vermette.

We also have a pretty good idea that Keith Yandle is available.

But Oliver Ekman-Larsson? Would they really trade him?

“Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a player that we would certainly be very, very reluctant to part with,” GM Don Maloney said today on TSN 1200 (audio), “but as far as I am concerned, when you’re sitting with our record, and we’re three or four worst records in the league, then everybody is up for grabs.”

Ekman-Larsson is a young defenseman who plays a ton and boasts all sorts of offensive talent. And just so we don’t misconstrue what was said, Maloney actually brought up the 23-year-old as an example of someone who was unlikely to be traded.

Maloney’s point was simply that nobody — save for captain Shane Doan, who’s “not going anywhere” — is untouchable as the Coyotes begin the process of “taking a step back” and “resetting” the organization with younger players.

Besides Vermette and Yandle, the Coyotes have a number of other veterans who could draw trade interest prior to the March 2 deadline, including forwards Martin Erat and Martin Hanzal and d-man Zbynek Michalek.

Related: Maloney says plan ‘may result in some long nights ahead’

Leafs’ luck: Bernier gives up long distance goal, things unravel in third

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Yikes. Sometimes that’s all you can really say about an especially bad goal.

Every tally has been precious for the offense-starved Toronto Maple Leafs, so giving up a soft one hurts that much more. That’s exactly what happened early in the third period tonight, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored from his own blue line on a sleepy Jonathan Bernier:

Rule of thumb: when people are bringing up Vesa Toskala’s name in Toronto, you know things are going poorly.

Update: Yep, the third period ended up being pretty rough for the Maple Leafs overall.

Phil Kessel first-period goal wasn’t nearly enough for the Maple Leafs to secure a standings point. Martin Hanzal scored the game-winner at the 3:47 mark of the third period and Sam Gagner found the net for an insurance tally with three-and-a-half minutes left.

Almost as disturbing for Toronto is that a flailing Arizona team hogged the puck. The Coyotes generated a 45-25 shot advantage on Thursday with a 21-6 second period being most glaring (even without featuring a single goal).

It’s one thing to be dominated by a contending team; it’s another to be handled thoroughly by a squad seemingly in free-fall mode. Bad times for the Maple Leafs.